In the era of AMOLED and OLED screens, we get a fair amount of queries about screen burn issues and how these affect a trade-in price. Read on to get your questions answered.
What Is Screen Burn?
A screen burn or ghost image is permanent discolouration of a display in the areas that are used the most. Your display is a matrix of individual light emitting diodes or pixels. Depending on what areas of the display are in constant use, the pixels in those areas begin to decay, subsequently ending their life-time usage and causing colour accuracy to fall off. We use our phones daily with the screen turned on by almost a quarter of the time that we’re awake on average.
Pixel 2 burn in
What Causes Screen Burn?
Screen burn-ins happen as a result of irregular pixel usage. The most common causes are idle screen activity, brightness levels set all the way up manually, screen time-out not being set up or having the Always On Display function turned on (Galaxy and Pixel phones have this feature).
Pixels in the status icons and navigation bar area emit light first, therefore these screen sections are the first to wear out. These areas of the display are used more against the rest of the display and uneven use is what causes a screen-burn. The fact that different colour pixels are aging at different rates also contributes to the risk. The burn-in looks like a faded spot or in extreme cases a shadow of previous "ghost" content on wherever you are on your phone.
Ghost image on iPhone
Tips to Prevent
Manufacturers are well aware of the issue and are implementing software solutions to avoid screen burn-ins. Luckily there are tricks to increase the lifespan of your OLED:
Navigate to your Settings menu and tap "Display". We'd recommend turning the auto-brightness mode on, so when you're indoors or outdoors the phone will automatically adjust the screen brightness for optimal use and won't have your screen brightness maxed out at all times.
The less your screen stays on inactive, the longer the lifetime of your display. So while you're in the Display Settings menu, shorten your screen timeout to a convenient minimum. Most phones allow you to decrease to 15 seconds of inactivity.
Get the Most out of Immersive Mode
The Immersive Mode hides static icons of the notification bar providing a burn-in preventive treatment. We'd recommend using this mode where available.
Our advice is to go with solid colours and change your wallpaper occasionally. For example, a solid black wallpaper. OLED screens consume energy and when displays are black the OLEDs do not burn in. Additionally, solid coloured wallpapers will contribute to longer battery life overall, so it's a win-win.
Use a Darker Keyboard
Black keyboards look nice and setting your theme entirely black will give a classy look to your phone's UI. But if you're against a completely dark interface, at least go with a darker keyboard as this will prevent display discolouration.
Can I Fix Screen Burn-In?
If your phone has suffered from burn-in you're wondering if you can fix it, unfortunately you can't. However, thanks to some very talented developers, there are apps to solve this issue. The science behind these apps is that your pixels can 'exercise' and make your burn-in disappear (but you won't get rid of the burn-in completely).
These burn-in fixer apps are pretty clever. Devices running Android Lollipop or later have something called 'Inverted Colours', and the fixer app takes advantage of this software trick.
When installing the app, it will run diagnostics to identify if your screen has burn-in and parts of user interface will be hidden to stop burn-in progressing. Colours will be inverted underneath the burn-in to clear the visibility of the damage. Most of these apps are on Google Play and some of them have a star rating above 4.0.
HUGE MASSIVE DISCLAIMER... Some users report permanent screen damage after using these tools, so use with caution only if you're on to the last resort of buying a new screen anyway.
All OLED screens can and will burn-in and they're more exposed to burn-ins than standard LCD, however LCDs are not completely free of this bug. However, OLED screens produce better image quality than LCD screens. So when you choose a phone, that's a price you pay- a shorter display lifespan for better image quality.
Unfortunately, it's quite tricky to spot a burn-in with an untrained eye or professional equipment, therefore when recycling your phone, you might quite easily be unaware your phone has this issue. When your device has been sent off and a recycler performs their inspections, burn-in specific tests will take place and you will be notified of the results. If your device has suffered from burn-in, your quote will be most likely be downgraded to the "Broken" price category. So, before it's too late, start following the tips we've discussed above to enjoy your displays for longer.